'Mankind is about to discover extraterrestrial life.' This was stated by the spokesman of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration during one of the last hearings of the Committee for Science, Space and Technology of the United States."
That's the masked Anonymous spokesperson speaking at the start of the group's video released on June 20.
This first point is a bit of an exaggeration, though it is rooted in fact. A NASA spokesperson – Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate – really did say something along those lines during the "Advances in the Search for Life" hearing on April 26 – though he wasn't quite so blunt.
"With all this activity related to the search for life in so many different areas, we are on the verge of one of the most profound discoveries ever," Zurbuchen said, when concluding his statement during the hearing.
Zurbuchen has every reason to be optimistic about the possibility of finding evidence of extraterrestrial biology over the coming years, but he certainly wasn't saying that an alien discovery announcement was imminent. You can watch the whole of his statement here, starting at 39 minutes and 20 seconds.
During his statement, Zurbuchen detailed the recent findings by NASA's Cassini mission that had detected plumes of hydrogen venting from Saturn moon Enceladus' subsurface ocean. Also, astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope detected water plumes around Jupiter's moon Europa at around the same time. Both moons are known to possess vast oceans of liquid water protected under thick shells of ice. Enceladus and Europa appear to have all the components for life – liquid water, an energy source and nutrients – so there's reason to be excited about the possibilities of life elsewhere in the solar system.
"Both discoveries show the potential of life-enabling energy sources hidden in oceans away from our view, beyond the icy crust and a confirmation that will be very significant for this science," he added during the hearing.
But that's not all. NASA is currently readying its Mars 2020 rover mission that will directly look for signs of past life on the red planet's surface. This next-generation Curiosity-like rover will feature advanced spectrometers and imaging instrumentation and will have the capability to "cache" rocky samples for a future sample return mission. There's also the planned Europa Clipper mission that will be launched to Jupiter to fly by the moon and carry out a detailed reconnaissance of its plumes and icy surface, possibly revealing chemicals that may be linked to the presence of alien biology in its ocean.
Beyond the solar system, NASA's Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes are revealing thousands of new extrasolar planets (or exoplanets) that may, one day, provide observational evidence for extraterrestrial life. "A transformation of understanding is taking place regarding planets around other stars," Zurbuchen explained.